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Chasing the Storm

Summary:
AU - What if Alice had seen Bella jump... but Bella answered the phone when Edward called? What if Alice saw a vision of Bella happy... but it wasn't with Edward? What if Edward returned to Forks, with every intention to check on Bella and leave... but when he sees her with someone else, his motives change? How do you choose between the person who was there to catch you when you fell… and the person who was there to make the jump with you in the first place? He let go of my arm, but kept staring at me, and I stared back up at him, eyes wide. "If you're going to let him go, then let him go." --Chapter 12 now posted!


Notes:


9. Chapter 9 - Choices and Revelations

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3100   Review this Chapter

This time, my prayers were not answered.

As I pulled up to our meeting place, my heart skipped a beat, then almost skidded to a stop. Jacob was leaning against a tree, trying to look casual, but failing miserably. His arms were crossed over his chest, hands balled into fists. He was glaring in my direction, but not at me. He was glaring at Edward.

Edward looked cool and collected, but I recognized the mask of detachment on his face, and mourned its appearance. The look was all too familiar – it was the one he’d worn in the days before he’d left me. I put the truck in park a few feet away from both of them and had to shut my eyes, my hands closing tightly around the steering wheel. Nothing is going to happen tonight. Jake just wants to talk. So, go talk. I didn’t believe my own thoughts, but I was able to take a shaky breath and jump from my truck, slamming the door behind me.

“I told you to come, Bella. I didn’t invite him,” Jacob said by way of greeting.

“If you really thought I would let her come here alone, then obviously, there is something wrong with that brain of yours,” Edward said in response.

I glared at both of them. “Enough.” I reeled on Jacob first. “You knew that Edward was going to follow me – that’s why you chose the boundary line as the place to meet up. I’m not stupid, you know.”

“I never said that you were.” He looked decidedly uncomfortable.

“Then stop acting like you think I am!” I yelled, my temper getting the best of me. I was finally letting all of my anger and frustrations out, even though I wasn’t quite sure if now was the right time. “I’m not a child! Stop making my decisions for me, and telling Charlie things that I would have told him in my own time. And you!” I said, whirling to face Edward. He stared at me, stunned that I was going to give him a piece of my mind, too. “I told you to stay at my house until I got back and not follow me. Why didn’t you listen?”

His eyes narrowed. “Bella, I wasn’t about to let you get this close to a bunch of werewolves without some sort of protection.”

“She’s been fine without your protection for the past five months,” Jacob said before I could get a word in edgewise. “Or at least as fine as she could be after you left her broken and alone in the woods.” Jacob’s eyes narrowed into slits, and Edward flinched, his eyes closing as if he were in physical pain.

“What’s going on?” I asked, glancing between them, panic quickly rising. “Jake, what are you doing?”

“Remembering,” he spat. “Remembering you, all those months he was gone.” Edward’s eyes opened, and he looked guilt ridden and absolutely miserable. “She’s no safer with you than she is with us.”

Edward’s eyes hardened and he took a step forward. “I am not about to let her stay here, alone and unprotected, with a bunch of dogs.

“Don’t I get a say in any of this?” I asked, annoyed, my anger rising once again. Both of them ignored me, neither seeming to hear.

Jacob took a step towards him. The distance between them was closing quickly, dangerously. “And I’m not about to let her stay alone and unprotected with a bunch of ,leeches, particularly one who's broken broke her as completely as you have.”

Tension crackled on the air between them, and I could see that both of them were ready to spring. I couldn’t take much more of this. “Damnit, stop it!” I yelled, moving to stand between them, throwing my hands out to keep them from getting any closer to each other.

That was when I realized the irony of the situation, the real reason they were at each others’ throats. I was between them. Literally. These were my choices – the love of my life, or my best friend who I had started to love without even realizing what was happening.

I’m not letting you go without a fight. Whatever it takes, Bella. You can’t split yourself in two. Their words and Alice’s warning ran circles through my head, and suddenly, my nightmare from the past few nights – the werewolf and the vampire tearing each other to shreds right in front of my eyes – made perfect sense.

I found myself laughing before I could stop myself, loud, hysterical laughter that shook me from head to toe. Both Jacob and Edward stared at me, stunned, then both reached out a hand, obviously worried about my well being. This had to be a result of the emotional roller coaster I’d been on the past few days. I hadn’t allowed myself to fully process everything, and now my brain had overloaded. I sunk to the ground, and eventually, the laughter turned to tears, and I was crying before I could stop myself. I wrapped my arms around myself and rocked back and forth, embarrassed by my breakdown, yet unable to stop the sobs from escaping.

“Bella-“ Edward crouched down next to me and put a hand on my shoulder. I didn’t acknowledge the gesture. I couldn’t. I was still crying too hard, my breathing coming in frantic, ragged gasps.

“Breathe, Bella,” Jacob said, leaning down on the other side of me and had I been in the right state of mind, I would have laughed – that was usually Edward’s line, if for an entirely different reason. He looked at Edward out of the corner of his eye, glaring.

“Don’t blame me for this,” Edward said sharply, probably in response to whatever he heard in Jacob’s thoughts.

“Stop it,” I was able to gasp out, just barely. “Please.”

Edward’s eyes narrowed into slits, but he didn’t say anything more. His hand moved in smooth circles along my back. Jacob’s hand was on top of my own in my lap, probably in a futile attempt to stop their shaking.

Eventually, I was able to breathe normally, and the tears slowed to a stop. I gently pulled my hands from Jacob’s grasp and rubbed my eyes. Then, I pushed myself to a standing position and carefully stepped backwards out of Edward’s grasp. I couldn’t have either of them touching me, not if I was going to say this and actually be able to get the words out without breaking down again.

Slowly, I glanced from Edward to Jacob, back and forth from one to the other. Then, I cast my eyes down.

“I can’t do this,” I said, and my voice only broke a little.

“Bella,” Jacob said softly, but I cut him off.

“No. No, you’re going to listen to me, Jake. Please,” I pleaded with him softly, and he nodded.

I took a deep breath. “I’m not going to stand here and pretend that you’re not both important to me. I won’t. I refuse. I know that I have a choice to make, but… I’m not ready to make that decision. I know that’s selfish,” I said, and I looked at Edward as I said the words. He was staring at me, his golden eyes intense, and I had to look away. “I know it’s selfish of me to want to keep you both in my life. It’s not fair to either of you. And I can’t stand the thought of knowing that either of you are hurting because of me.”

I took a breath. This was the hardest part. “But someone told me that I was going to make a choice that would either make me or break me. That I couldn’t split myself in two. I’m not ready to make that choice yet. But you can’t make me split myself in two either.” I stared at the ground. “It hurts too much.”

Both of them were still and silent and staring straight at me. I think they knew what I was going to say, but were waiting for me to speak the words. I took a breath. “I need some time to think. I…” I stared at the ground, and whispered, “I need some time alone.”

Neither of them said anything, and their silence was painful. There were no words, no sounds, nothing but the wind blowing through the little clearing.

Jacob was the first to speak. “If that’s what you want, Bella, then… then I’ll respect your wishes.” He couldn’t look at me while he spoke, and the look in his eyes spoke volumes. My heart ached.

“I’ll always be here, Bella,” Edward glanced at Jacob, and my heartbeat jumped. “No matter whom you choose, in the end.” His voice was quiet, his emotions restrained behind a tense jaw and the little lines of strain around his eyes. I knew what he was thinking – we’d only just reunited, and now I was willing to separate again, possibly forever. He was terrified that I wasn’t going to choose him, but he would accept my choice, no matter how much I hurt him. The look in his eyes broke my heart.

I choked back the sob that was creeping up my throat and nodded. “Thank you,” I whispered. Then, before either of them could see the tears that were quickly welling up in my eyes, I turned around, ran back to my truck, and stepped on the gas, speeding off for home as fast as I could without getting into an accident or pushing my truck’s limits too far.

I fought valiantly to hold back the sobs as I drove. I knew that as soon as I let myself go, driving would become impossible. Just a little farther, I told myself as the traitor tears began to escape. I hastily brushed them away.

As soon as I reached home, I ran up the front steps, my hand shaking as I turned the key in the lock. I closed the door as quietly as I could behind me, hoping I wouldn’t run into Charlie.

No dice. My luck had officially run out. “Hi, Bella, everything go-“ His smile fell when he caught the look on my face. “Bella, what happened? Did something happen with Jake?” He asked, stepping forward to awkwardly wrap his arms around my shoulders.

I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, my voice muffled by his shirt. I’m sure he could tell I was still holding back tears. “I just want to go to bed.”

Charlie pushed me backwards, glancing down at me furtively. In a rare gesture of affection, he kissed the top of my head. I almost broke down right there and then. “Go to sleep, honey. Whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t seem as bad in the morning.”

No, I thought, I will seem worse. So much worse. I nodded anyway and turned, heading for the stairs. I fumbled up as fast as I could, then flung my bedroom door open.

My heart stopped at the sight standing in front of the window.

“Bella!” Alice said, and her voice was so soft, so concerned, that I couldn’t help it – all of my weight went out from under me, and I collapsed, but she was there before my knees hit the floor, easily shifting me to the bed. She wrapped her arms around me and I cried on her shoulder until all of my tears ran dry and I could breathe again.

“I’m guessing you saw,” I said, my voice hoarse. I sniffled, rubbing a hand over my eyes. “We were wrong – I didn’t make a choice.”

“Oh, Bella,” Alice said, and she shook her head. She brushed a piece of hair out of my face and the gesture was so tender, so reminiscent of Edward that I almost burst into tears again. She sighed. “Remember what you asked me on the phone? About me leaving because I saw you with Jacob?”

I nodded. Of course I did. I remembered that conversation with a clarity that was probably abnormal for a human.

She took a breath that I knew she didn’t need. “When I beat around the answer, I knew you took it as a confirmation, but… I just didn’t want to tell you the truth because I didn’t fully understand what I saw. Until tonight when Edward came home and told me what happened in the clearing between you, Jacob, and him.”

I froze, my entire body going numb. No. She couldn’t be saying what I thought she was saying. Please, please don’t let her be saying what I think she’s saying. I couldn’t take much more of this. My heart couldn’t take much more, either.

“Bella…” Her voice was hesitant, but apparently she decided this was something that I needed to know, because she finished her sentence. “I didn’t leave because I saw you with Jacob. I left because I saw you alone. And it seemed like something you needed.”

As Alice’s words came rushing back to me, I realized just how wrong I’d been.

I – I have to leave. I can’t tell you why. I can’t even tell you what I’ve seen, because even I’m not completely sure.

God, had I been wrong.

“You saw me… choose being alone,” I said slowly, barely processing the words as they left my mouth. “You weren’t sure what it meant, only… that I was alone, and that it seemed like I’d made the decision to be.”

Alice nodded. “I saw flashes of Edward – him coming home, the two of you at our house – and you seemed like you were…” She hesitated.

I finished for her. “Like I was split in two?”

Alice examined my face. When she was sure her answer wouldn’t send me back into hysterics, she answered, “Yes. I can’t see werewolves in my visions, but after seeing you with Jacob, then finding out that you kissed him that day that I called you,” she shrugged. “I was able to come to the right conclusions.”

The memories of her words kept coming, their true meanings flowing just as steadily.

Don’t make any promises that you aren’t sure you can keep.

“You warned me not to make any decisions one way or the other before I was ready.”

“Of course,” Alice said, as if this were obvious. “Things still weren’t clear to me, but I did know that if you jumped to a decision, you would have regretted it – you will regret it,” she amended. “You have to be alone, Bella. Because in the end-“

“’The decision could make me or break me’, I know,” I said, getting annoyed now. How many times was she going to tell me the same thing? At least annoyed was better than hysterical.

Alice smirked, then she was serious again. “Bella, there’s something else you need to know.”

“Oh, God,” I moaned, burying my head back in her shoulder. “What else could there be?”

“Ummm,” Alice laughed a bit unsteadily. “Edward and I are coming back to school tomorrow?”

I could feel my face go white and my eyes widen as I lifted my head. Not only would this be disastrous, but this would be embarrassing. I could only imagine what my classmates would be thinking about when they saw Edward walking through the halls. I’m sure they’d think of me, the way I’d acted when he and the rest of the Cullens had disappeared. What would they say if they didn’t see us together? What would they say if they did?

This was just too much. I dropped my head back down.

“Can you at least give me a hint,” I said, my voice stifled against her shoulder, “As to how badly this is going to go?”

Alice patted my back. “It won’t be nearly as bad as you’re thinking.”

I lifted my head again, arching my eyebrow, clearly showing that I didn’t believe her. Her definition of bad and my definition of bad were two entirely different things.

Alice rolled her eyes. “Bella, it’s just high school, and you know how childish your peers can be.” She stroked a hand through my hair. “Whatever you decide is fine with me.”

“What do you mean whatever I decide?” I asked suspiciously.

Instead of answering, she kissed me on the cheek and flounced towards the window.

“Don’t worry, Bella. Everything will turn out fine. I promise.” Then, with a smile and a wave, she was gone.

I sat there for a few seconds in shock before I threw myself back on my bed. I grabbed a pillow, pressed it over my face, and screamed as loud as I could. Screaming was better than crying, I decided. Screaming I could handle.

All of this, however… I had no idea how I was supposed to go about dealing with all of this.

First, I had to deal with school tomorrow. Alice was right. Most of my classmates were a bunch of childish adolescents who liked to gossip, and Edward and I had given them plenty of gossip fodder over the past year. I could ignore them if I really wanted to. I could… even if the thought of being the center of attention made my stomach churn with dread. Together or separate, it didn’t matter – they would be talking about us. We were all they would be talking about.

My heart pounded, and I shook my head. Next, I had to deal with this startling new development concerning Alice’s vision. Knowing that Alice had seen me alone, that she had known this was coming since she’d stood in my kitchen just a few weeks ago, did not make me feel any better about the matter. Because I was still alone, and I’d still hurt the two people who I cared about most in the entire world.

And I still had a choice to make.

I pushed the pillow from my face and stood up, tiptoeing down the stairs to the kitchen. I dialed and waited for the person on the other line to pick up.

“Bella?”

“So, tell me something,” I whispered, not wanting to wake Charlie. “You say I can’t split myself in two. You say that deep down, I already know who I want. You say I have to make a choice.

“But Alice…” I clenched the phone in my hand as tight as I could, and swallowed hard. “How do you choose between the person who was there to catch you when you fell… and the person who was there to make the jump with you in the first place?”

The phone was silent on the other end. It was the answer that I’d been expecting, but it was also the answer that scared me the most.